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EXTREMISM IN OBEDIENCE TO LEADERS (1)




By
Ibn Abdillah As-sudaisiy Al-Iloori

Extremism manifests in so many ways. As Muslims, we must always watch our steps and avoid extremism in whatever way it presents itself. Like in all other aspects of the foundations of Sunnah, extremism can occur in obedience to rulers. You will see some people only talking about obedience to leaders without mentioning the exceptions to this general rule. 

It is always important to balance the equations, otherwise, some people might be thinking the ruling on obedience to leaders is absolute. We are to obey leaders on instructions that are not against the provisions of the Qur'an and Sunnah. If they command us to do what clearly offends the Sunnah, we should be courageous enough to disobey them politely and in a non-violent way. It is not from the way of the salaf to support leaders upon evil. Any scholar, no matter how influential, who support a leader or anyone for that matter, upon corruption or injustice would face Allaah on the Day of Judgment. 

Yesterday, Sheikh Abdur-Raafi' Al-Imaam حفظه الله benefitted us with a quote from Sheikh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyah رحمه الله on his wall, and I felt it is a matter that needs to be expanded further for our better understanding. The statement of the Sheikh is timely and very much relevant to the concept of obedience to leaders. The words of the Sheikh is a warning against extremism or transgression in obedience to rulers. The Sheikh said:

“Many of the supporters of the Umayyad rulers – or most of them – believed that the ruler would not be subjected to any reckoning or punishment. They believed they (the supporters) would not be held accountable for whatever they did in obedience to the ruler’s command! They believed they were obliged to obey the ruler in everything, and that such absolute obedience was ordained by Allaah. The statements of such supporters in this regard are many and well-known. For example, Yazeed ibn Abdul-Malik (one of the Umayyad rulers) had intended to follow in the footsteps of the (pious) ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdli-‘Azeez (رحمه الله) but a group of their shaykhs came to him and swore: ‘By Allaah beside whom none has the right to be worshipped, when Allaah appoints someone as a ruler upon  the people, He always accepts his good deeds and overlooks his misdeeds!’ That is why you find in the statements of many of their elders the command to give the rulers an absolute obedience, and that whoever obeyed them has indeed obeyed Allaah. It was this tendency that gave birth to the term, ‘the Levant Obedience’ (طاعة شامية). For, these people claim that their ruler would not ask them to do anything except what Allaah has indeed commanded them to do’. And there is no Shiite among them!”[- Shaykh al-Islaam Ahmad ibn ‘Abdul-Haleem ibn ‘Abdis-Salaam Ibn Taymiyyah (رحمه الله), in Minhaajus-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah (6: 430-431)]

I once heard a poem that depict this scenario from one of our Sheikhs رحمه الله who went and deliver a lecture at the Palace of our Emir about 15 years ago, and he said regarding the sanctity of obedience to leaders:

عليك بالطاعة السلطان سرا ** وجهرا ما بقيت مدى الزمان

"Upon you is to obey the King in privacy, and in public as long as you exist in time"

This poem is capable of being interpreted by listeners in different ways. It could mean obedience to rulers within the limits set by the shari'ah. But a lot of ignorant people could take it to mean that a King or a leader is to be obeyed in everything without limitation. In recent time, we have seen many people who view it in this manner. They obey leaders upon evils. They obey leaders in ways that affect the rights of Allaah and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم. Whereas, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: 


"إنما الطاعة في المعروف"

"Obedience is only with regard to that which is right and proper.” (Sahih Bukhari)

In anothet hadith, he صلى الله عليه وسلم said:

 "لا طاعة لمخلوق في معصية الخالق"

"There is no obedience to a creature in disobedience to the Creator" (Musnad Imam Ahmad)

These two hadith establish the principle that no one, no matter how highly placed should be obeyed to disobey Allaah and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم. This is an exception to the general rule that leaders are meant to be obeyed in their instructions. These hadiths are not only applicable to leaders alone, it applies to other set of people Allaah has commanded us to obey. For instance, our parents are meant to be obeyed in their instructions. But if their instructions would lead us to disobey Allaah and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم, the instruction should not be carried out. This wouldn't amount to disrespect or rudeness towards them even if they see it as such. If our parents instruct us to do something that is against the Qur'an and Sunnah, we should object it in a polite manner without any form of disrespect. 

In the same manner, a wife must obey her husband at all time except when his instruction is against any of the provisions of the Qur'an and Sunnah. A man shouldn't also obey his wife upon sinful acts. Some men do obey their wives to commit sins because of the love they have for them. This is not proper. Sheikh ibn Baaz رحمه الل was asked regarding a woman who disobeys her husband's instruction that she shouldn't perform hajj. Relying on the two hadiths cited above, the Sheikh said if the hajj is the obligatory one and the wife has fulfilled the conditions of hajj, she is not bound to follow her husband's instruction in that regard. But if the hajj is supergatory, she must follow her husband's instruction not to go. [See here: https://binbaz.org.sa/fatwas/19107/انما-الطاعة-في-المعروف accessed on 27th November, 2018]

Shaykh al-Fawzaan حفظه الله also said: 

Women are enjoined to obey Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, and they are enjoined to obey their husbands and parents, within the framework of obedience to Allaah. But if obeying a person such as one’s father or husband involves disobedience of the Creator, this is not permissible. [See Al-Muntaqa min Fataawa al-Shaykh al-Fawzaan, 1/265, 266, Question no. 161]

Therefore, in dealing with these set of people (leaders, parents and husbands), it would amount to laxity in the deen of a Muslim to choose the exceptional rule and neglect the general rule. In the same vein, it is a form of extremism in the deen of a Muslim to stick to the general rule and neglect the exception. Both the general rule and the exception must be considered in all relevant cases. A wise and intelligent Muslim would strive to know which one is to be applied in any given situation.

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